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Summary:

Beyonce’s in a spot of bother right now, as she’s just joined the not-so-proud club of performing artists who’ve been caught sans guide track. But hopefully she can take some solace in knowing that her music still brings people together. A new video of the frequently […]

Beyonce’s in a spot of bother right now, as she’s just joined the not-so-proud club of performing artists who’ve been caught sans guide track. But hopefully she can take some solace in knowing that her music still brings people together.

A new video of the frequently copied dance from Beyonce’s pop smash viral hit, Single Ladies, has wracked up nearly 300,000 views in two days. What’s special about this one? Well, instead of one guy in his bedroom, Jaquel Knight’s choreography is being performed by a hundred women in heels and leotards. Oh, and it’s being performed in the middle of London’s Piccadilly Circus.

This sort of Improv Everywhere-esque stunt is most easily pulled off with the help of corporate dollars, and this one’s no different — the very title of the video broadcasts the involvement of Trident gum, which is sponsoring Beyonce’s November 2009 performance at the O2 Center in London. The upfront disclosure is due to the UK’s strict rules regarding the presentation of advertising, but it works to Trident’s advantage to mention it anyways, as the video ends with a plug for the Trident Unwrapped tie-in site, which appear to be running a Willy Wonka-esque concert ticket contest.

This is only the latest in “flash dance” virals, though, a phenomenon whose roots may be found in the Central Station waltz from Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King. And using it for viral ads is nothing new, either. The recent Sound of Music dance breakdown in Antwerpen Central Station was actually an ad for the Belgian talent competition Looking for Maria (an adaptation of the British reality series How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?). Meanwhile, T-Mobile’s big dance number hit 6 million views and at least six different musical genres.

Sometimes the flash dance format isn’t a perfect fit for advertising — especially the T-Mobile one (its message of “life’s for sharing” is a bit of a stretch). But I can’t blame companies for wanting to latch onto this phenomenon, as it appeals to all ages, it’s fun, and its lack of dialogue means each video can play internationally. Plus, there’s something fascinating at the core of the concept. By breaking the social contract for what’s appropriate in a public space, there’s a captivating element of controlled chaos, and the visual spectacle of large crowds moving as one has a way of communicating community on a primal level. Which means that whether co-opted by a brand or not, each video in this tradition is a pleasure to watch — no matter how many times you see it done.

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  1. “By breaking the social contract for what’s appropriate in a public space, there’s a captivating element of controlled chaos, and the visual spectacle of large crowds moving as one has a way of communicating community on a primal level.”

    Nice bit of deconstructin’ there Liz. Cool post.

  2. As always, you are my undisputable favorite source for all things web-y and cool.

  3. (linkback) Cool or Lame? Beyonce’s Single Ladies the Latest to Flash Dance [VOTE] – http://www.pikk.com/e0c32

  4. I feel like the homogeneity of this (they’re even wearing the same shoes!) makes it more like a dance troupe performing in public than a true Improv Everywhere-type flash dance.

  5. Liz Shannon Miller Thursday, April 23, 2009

    Definitely see your point — I’ve heard comments from others about how putting all the dancers in leotards makes this video less fun than the videos where people wear street clothes. PAY ATTENTION, POWERS THAT BE.

  6. Hi,

    Great deconstruction LIz.

    Unfortunately, for anyone with adhd, this is just too contrived.

    In time, the brands hijacking stuff like Improv Anywhere will bore even the media/news outlets to the point no one cares, no coverage is given, and in some cases, as with the t-mobile ones, smarter consumers actually negatively-rate a brand for its lack of originality or its cynicism.

    The ad-executives lazily ripping off web-video just don’t get what makes the organic beauty of a genuine viral when they do lo-brow, compared to people in the ad-industry who do understand like the people behind the Cadbury’s “Glass and a half full” productions.

    Kind regards,

    Shakir Razak

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